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It was almost inevitable that an album so delayed and so over-budget would end this way. Wintersun's highly anticipated sophomore album has been eight long years in the making, a time in which many other artists have split, reformed and released more quickly, but as the dust settles and the shock around the mere fact that "Time I" has actually been released subsides, we are left with extreme metal's "Chinese Democracy" - an album where the absence of any spontaneity whatsoever has resulted in an over-thought, over-blown, over-produced, disappointment.
The "I" in the title does indeed mean a "Time II" is soon to follow, but if that implies this is only a half-album then it begs the question why it is being released this way and fans are being asked to pay twice. The answer is no better if "Time I" is to be taken as a free-standing release of it's own because to have only 40 minutes of new material, approximately nine of which are atmospheric filler, is a very poor return for a band who released their stunning self-titled LP so long back. The intentions of Jari Mäenpää & co are evident from the outset of extravagant opener "When Time Fades Away", the album believing itself to be a film score rather than vehicle for high-quality metal riffs and in a trait which is becoming distinctly Finnish, whistles away with flickering lights, speaker-filling vastness and not a whole lot else in the belief that this 'epicness' is what will do. This slowly morphs into "Sons of Winter and Stars", a 13-minute track which I gather is being described as 'epic' by most - I would argue that while it moves through plenty of stages, very little of it is truly memorable nor on a par with the likes of "Sleeping Stars" or "Starchild" from the debut. In it Mäenpää displays some impassioned pipes but behind it are mediocre riffs displaced by an over-dependence on synth that will no doubt be pumped out in the live arena (for the effects of this just see Arkona, Turisas or Equilibrium live recently). Like the album at large, it is too sweet and synth-driven to hit home hard; the song is simply trying too hard to be 'epic'.
"Land of Snow and Sorrow" is a bit more on-target with more decent vocal melodies but bogged down by over-reliance on that darn synth again. Leading into "Darkness and Frost", effectively another intro piece for the 12-minute closing title track which mixes acoustic strumming, techno synth and battle-ready drumming more effectively than it's earlier counterpart and which brings us to "Time". Notable for some truly horrible vocal howls straight out of production hell early on, it again produces much but little of it, save for the vocals and odd moments of guitar work, lingers in the memory. It too closes with two minutes of atmospheric outro, book-ending the album in long periods of substance-free dynamics.
Overall, "Time I" can be said to possess none of the seismic riffs the debut did and has gone way too heavy on the futuristic keyboard effects and guitar tones playing boring riffs to elicit similar feelings of majesty and power. After so much time in production, too much has been attempted in the short span of this release with few moments of genuine greatness amongst them. Ultimately, if the band were not coming off the back of such a widely-loved record this one would not generate much love or admiration. Let's see where "Time II" goes off from here.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net